2017: Putting test methods to the test

If there ever was a year of test methods, it was certainly 2016. Test methods in standards define how everyday products at home, and on the road, are tested before they enter the market. Information provided to consumers about the performance of products such as the EU Energy Label is based on such methods. Volkswagen’s ‘Dieselgate’ scandal is a perfect example of how unrealistic or circumvented test methods can have a major impact on the everyday lives of EU citizens.

ECOS played a key role pushing the importance of test methods, and how they are developed, on to the political agenda throughout this year. With the European Commission, we contributed to political discussions on how to close regulatory loopholes and how to address circumvention of test methods. With European standardisation organisations, we worked closely on ways to develop test methods which are robust and reflect real-life conditions of product use. All the while, we raised awareness on the topic, and extended the debate to civil society and other stakeholders through our publications and public events.

The hard work has led to many successes. Most prominent is the publication of two EU Regulations on tolerances in verification procedures for Ecodesign and Energy Labelling product regulations. Tolerances were used by some manufacturers to declare an energy performance which was better for their products than what the tests had shown in labs. This also allowed them to comply with Ecodesign requirements.

Standardisers have started work to make test methods more accurately reflect the real-life use of products, including through bringing together technical experts in special standardisation groups. Test methods not reflecting reality could lead to manufacturers claiming a performance level on product labels which never become reality in households.

New standardisation work on material efficiency aspects for energy-related products in 2017 will further strengthen the Ecodesign policy by going beyond energy efficiency. The European institutions are also about to reach consensus on a revised EU Energy Labelling Directive which will reintroduce the label’s original A-G scale, and removing the confusing A+ classes. These developments, together with the work expected in the years to come will bring the EU closer to its political objectives on energy efficiency and support the transition to a true Circular Economy.

ECOS will continue to be the environmental voice in standardisation in 2017 and welcomes all interested parties, including NGOs and technical experts, to support our team in this endeavour.